Thanks to the changes made during the late 80s, Saturday Night Live started the 90s on a high. But while there was more stability and certainly more star power in this era, the show still slogged through an uncomfortable period of transition between the gold standard cast of Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey, and Mike Myers, and the cast that was fronted by Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon.
All told, there were 34 cast members that belonged to the 90s. Some blew up, some faded away, and others popped on our screens for only an instant. Read down to see what they brought to Saturday Night Live and what they’ve done since they graduated (or were tossed aside). After that, be sure to check out our look back at the 70s cast and the 80s cast…
Jim Breuer (1995-1998)
If you would have asked me at the start of the 1995 season who was going to be the breakout star of that cast, I would have said Jim Breuer. I would have screamed it, and yet that did not happen. Instead, the hyperactive Breuer had a few stand-out bits like The Joe Pesci Show and Goat Boy — both of which feel, in hindsight, extremely limited in their lifespan — but wasn’t asked back after his third season, which he blamed on Adam McKay, the show’s head writer at the time.
You can go here to read all about it, but basically, McKay contends that Lorne Michaels was forced to hire Breuer and that his success with Half Baked and a pending film career had commandeered his focus and allowed Michaels a chance to get rid of him.
Unfortunately, that movie career never really materialized, but Breuer has worked steadily since leaving SNL, particularly as a comic, putting out five one-hour specials and a book.
Beth Cahill (1991-1992)
Cahill‘s career didn’t take off after she left SNL following a forgettable season. Now she’s a sometime fashion designer and continues to do improv on the side.
Dana Carvey (1986-1993)
One of SNL‘s late-80s and early-90s saviors, Dana Carvey was a recurring character factory, launching The Church Lady, Hans of Hans and Franz, Garth, and an iconic President George H. W. Bush impression into the zeitgeist.
After SNL, Carvey struggled to find the right project for his unique skill set. 1996’s Dana Carvey Show seemed like a fit for its star, but ABC didn’t know what to do with it and it died fast despite the fact that the show featured on-screen and behind-the-scenes talent like Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Robert Smigel, Louis CK, Jon Glasser, Dino Stamatopoulos, and Charlie Kauffman. 2002’s Master of Disguise was a less surprising disappointment.
Giving Carvey’s post-SNL career anything other than an incomplete grade is unfair, though, since heart trouble took him out of the game for awhile in the late 90s. Lately, Carvey is in good health and regularly touring as a stand-up comic.
Ellen Cleghorne (1991-1995)
Cleghorne left SNL to star in her own series on The WB, but it died after 12 episodes. Oddly, I thought that Cleghorne! lasted a while and that Ellen Cleghorne had only been on SNL for a year or two, but that isn’t so. The things you learn…
Cleghorne has appeared sporadically on the big screen since the mid-90s, most notably in Little Nicky, Old School, and Grown Ups 2. #SandlerConnection
Chris Elliott (1994-1995)
Chris Elliott did some amazing stuff by David Letterman’s side during the NBC years, but when he graduated to SNL, it just didn’t happen for him.
Elliott co-starred in There’s Something About Mary and Scary Movie 2, voiced Dogbert in the Dilbert cartoon, and had recurring roles on Everybody Loves Raymond, and How I Met Your Mother after SNL. More recently, he starred in Eagleheart for Adult Swim and his new show, Schitt’s Creek, just premiered on something called The Pop Network. He also went back to Letterman the other night and made magic happen.
Siobhan Fallon (1991-1992)
Fallon has been a steady character actress since she left SNL. Her most notable role was in Men in Black.
Chris Farley (1990-1995)
A f*cking force of nature. Farley wasn’t the passive “fat guy fall down, make funny” kind of guy. He owned his size and used it as a tool, throwing himself around and bucking like a bull in the china shop of life.
Matt Foley and the Chippendale Dancer are legendary sketches, and Farley had a good thing going post-SNL with David Spade after Black Sheep and Tommy Boy. What I’m saying is, the church of awe that rose up after Farley’s drug-related death isn’t a result of his fame and youth, it’s real. Just like the talent that he took with him to the great wherever.